Dramatic Irony In Macbeth

Dramatic Irony In Macbeth

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Dramatic Irony In Macbeth, Use of Dramatic Irony In Macbeth.

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What is dramatic irony, What is meant by dramatic irony, What is the best definition of dramatic irony?

In its broadest scene, ‘ irony ‘ is the recognition of the incongruity or difference between reality and appearance. ‘ Dramatic irony ‘ means the audience understanding implications, but the characters do not.

For example, Oedipus in Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex ” does not realize his crime.

Dramatic Irony in Macbeth, Shakespeare’s use of dramatic irony in Macbeth.

Dramatic irony plays a very interesting and significant part in ” Macbeth “.

Firstly, the expression must not include ironical remarks as those of Lennox in the Seven Scene of Act – III.

Secondly, the expression is also to be distinguished from the ‘ irony of fate or circumstances ‘.

Thirdly, the expression, ‘ dramatic irony ‘ conveys the fact of the characters saying or doing things. The proper meaning of which, though not understood by themselves, is understood by the spectator – sometimes better understood.

Fourthly, it must be taken to mean the speeches or actions, the meaning of which the spectators know but the speakers or characters do not know or understand at the time when they are said or done in the presence of the spectators.

Fifthly, the very first expression of ” Macbeth ” – ” So foul and fair a day, I have not seen ” is an example of dramatic irony for startling the readers.

Sixthly, referring to the varying chances of the day, Macbeth means the succession to the thorn by fair weather.

Seventhly, our attention is directed to the words of the witches in the First Scene of First Act – ” Fair is foul and foul is fair “. We see, in the verbal resemblance, an indication of the ‘ elective affinity ‘ between Macbeth and his tempters and the three witches.

Eighthly, Duncan’s comment on the treachery of Cawdor in Act – I, Scene – IV, is another example of dramatic irony. Duncan does not know but the audience does that his condemnation of the Thane of Cawdor is just as applicable to Macbeth who enters as he speaks. And the force of this is heightened by the friendly greeting, ” Oh worthiest cousin “.

Ninthly, the poetic lines of Banquo describing the castle of Macbeth in Act – I, Scene – VI may be taken also as an example of dramatic irony. The speaker and the king enjoy the peaceful innocence of the interior of the castle. But the heart of the audience feels the irony of fate or circumstances which awaits the king within it.

Tenthly, Porter’s speech in which he imagines himself to be the porter of the hell gate is another instance of dramatic irony. The audience knows how near he comes to the truth although the speaker does not.

Eleventhly, Lady Macbeth’s light words in Act – II, Scene – III, are the same dramatic irony.

We realize that all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten away the smell of Duncan’s blood from her hands.

Lastly, the most striking instance of dramatic irony is Banquo’s promise not to fail to attend the feast of Macbeth without knowing that his fate is already sealed.

Read More – Lady Macbeth Character Analysis


To sum up, dramatic irony plays a very integral part in ” Macbeth ” from beginning to end.

In dramatic irony, the audience understand implications, but the characters do not.

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch  remarks in his book, ” Shakespeare’s Workmanship ” that ” there is, to be sure, some of the traditional tragic irony in ” Macbeth “. But its peculiar irony is retrospective rather than prophetic “.

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